What discovery was not made

History of anesthesia

Of course, it was initially the operations that dominated the field of operative medicine in the second half of the 19th century, especially in the form of minor interventions. Larger interventions were only carried out in extraordinary emergency situations, because the probability of surviving an operation was extremely low. Therefore, other means and ways were used to achieve pain relief during surgical measures: alcohol, poppy seed extracts (opium) and other herbal substances (mandragora) were administered to the patient before the operation. Unfortunately, often in the wrong dosage, so that some patients died of poisoning. Non-drug procedures were e.g. B. Ice packs and the tying off of limbs.

On March 30, 1842, the American general practitioner Crawford Williamson Long performed the first operation using ether vapors. However, this discovery was not made public. Horace Wells, a dentist in the small town of Hartford, Connecticut, discovered in 1844 at a performance by the “entertainer” Gardner Quincy Colton that people who were injured in the laughing gas frenzy of a carnival and party attraction were apparently no pain. He did not hesitate to use this for his patients and had his assistant pull out a tooth under nitrous oxide anesthesia the next day.

No humbug: the discoverer of modern anesthesia

It was not until October 16, 1846, under an ether anesthesia performed by William Thomas Green Morton, that John Collins Warren presented his surgical colleagues with more complex tumor operations in the so-called "ether cathedral" at Harvard Medical School in Boston (USA). For this purpose, W. T. G. Morton had developed a first, simple anesthetic gas system. After the operation, the surgeon J. C. Warren said to the audience: "Gentlemen, this is no humbug!" ("Gentlemen, this is no nonsense!"). This October 16, 1846 went down in history as “Aether Day”. Since then, Morton has been considered the discoverer of modern anesthesia, America's most important contribution to medicine.

Within a few weeks, the possibility of ether anesthesia spread throughout the civilized world. The ability to operate painlessly revolutionized all of medicine and allowed surgery to expand. The writer and anatomy professor Oliver Wendell Holmes then wrote about the term "anesthesia" as a state of insensitivity for the first time. In Europe, too, the effectiveness of the ether was quickly used. The first ether anesthesia was performed in Leipzig and Erlangen as early as 1847.

The number of operations increased by leaps and bounds

Shortly after the introduction of ether anesthesia into medicine, the number of operations increased by leaps and bounds. This form of pain and sensation dampening made it possible for the first time to operate carefully and without time pressure. Just one year after the first ether anesthesia in Boston, John Snow published a book about a dosing device for the controlled administration of ether.

In 1847, chloroform was discovered for use as an anesthetic. John Snow popularized its use by using chloroform to help Queen Victoria of England give birth to her eighth child, Prince Leopold. This also led to the social recognition of obstetric anesthesia. Since Snow specialized in anesthesia in his day, he can be called the first anesthetist. It was he who described the first oral intubation in animals in 1858 and who, through numerous discoveries, laid the foundation for anesthesia as a science in the years that followed.